At some point in following Jesus outside of the religious system, you must wrestle with the question of “What about tithing?” If you are not attending a traditional, institutional fellowship – to whom, or to where now should your “tithe” that you’ve been faithfully giving go?
Of course, these questions should really only unearth the deeper, more meaningful questions. Namely: What is a tithe? What is it’s meaning and purpose? Is it biblical? Is it Christian?
And then deeper still: What is stewardship? What is generosity?
What is the Lord calling me to do with what He has provided me?
Have you ever explored these questions? Or, have you simply listened to the annual sermon on tithing at your church, and then “tested the Lord in this, to see if He would throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing on you that you will not have room for it.” (Malachi 3:8-10)
Growing up in churchianity, I wrestled with the idea of tithing. Like most, I felt tangibly my lack of faith in God to provide for me, and held on dearly and tightly to my money. I would feel either guilt, or conviction, or motivation upon hearing teaching that either:
- Told me I was a wicked servant and lazy steward if I was not faithfully tithing
- Told that I was robbing God Almighty, putting myself under a curse
- Told that making God happy required giving Him money that He needed to do His work
- Told that by tithing, I would somehow tap into a supernatural slot machine of guaranteed payouts
You might say these are generalizations. But these are surely taught, explicitly or implicitly, in churches across America today.
Especially when the, ahem, budget is under-water a bit.
Coming out of a “going to church” mindset and way of life forced me into re-thinking these, and asking better questions to find better answers… True answers. No matter where you find yourself, or how you find yourself being the Church (or fine, going), I would challenge you to spend time with the Lord and wrestle with this issue.
Tithing is a Biblical concept, but not a Christian Truth.
What I mean by that, is that tithing is an Old Covenant teaching. Followers of Jesus do not live by the Old Covenant. They Live by a Lord indwelling. Kingdom Living. The tithe of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and especially the one mentioned in Malachi (that’s the storehouse one that Pastors use to guilt you into giving, or to teach prosperity gospel) was part of the Law.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law.
Additionally, that tithe was more of a “tax.” It supported the Levitical Priesthood and the Temple, and was to be brought in 3 parts:
- A tithe on produce of the land for the Levites. The Levites were not a part of the land inheritance, they were set apart to be priests in the Temple, so the tithe, or tax, provided for them.
- A tithe on produce of the land for the festivals. This was so that the people could gather to eat, drink and be merry – as many of the festivals were for. They were celebrations. In this way, the law and tax provided for the right to party!
- A tithe of the produce every 3rd year for extra giving to locals, orphans, widows, etc.
This was the Biblical tithe, commanded to Israel, and on the whole, it was more like 23.3%!! You think people have a hard time with 10%, try telling them a true Biblical “tithe” is more than double!
With the death of Jesus, all ceremonial Laws were nailed to the cross with Him. For this reason, New Testament Christians were not seen “tithing.”
Instead, they gave generously and cheerfully according to their ability – not dutifully out of a command.
It is my conviction we are to do the same.
Personally, I do not have any issue at all with Christ followers who “tithe” to a local church home or fellowship. Many do this every week or month, and do so out of a love response to the Lord, for the benefit of others. And they are joyful. I will never cast a stone at this.
But I take strong opposition toward the teaching that guilts people into giving, using the Bible no less, that God opposes those who do not give back to Him what is His. This teaching holds up financial blessing (in the world’s eyes) as evidence of God’s favor, and casts a judging eye toward financial hardship (in the world’s eyes) as some kind of curse for withholding from God.
Further, I oppose teaching that says, give and you will be blessed – in the sense of more worldly blessing. Jesus knows nothing of this, in fact, He teaches just the opposite. In Him, we have all we need.
He is the blessing.
Jesus is the Storehouse. He is the Temple. He is the Offering. He is the High Priest. Jesus fulfills all the Law, including the one to “tithe.”
This does not make following Him “easier.” So, in light of this, we are “free” to do as we wish with His money He gives us to steward. But, following Him will lead us to a response that will always go beyond the original Law. In the same way He said anger is murder and lust is adultery – tithing to check a box, to get a blessing, to be right with Him, to outsource caring for the poor and orphans and widows (true religion according to James 1:27) – is wrong thinking and belief.
Following Him means understanding that our possessions, our very life, is not ours – but His. It means loving the unlovable. It means blessing those who are the least of these. It means very literally revealing Heaven into the earth as the Body of Christ as hands of provision to those who are hungry to see Hope.
Religion doesn’t ask for much – just 10% of your income. Jesus asks for everything.
When we take up our Cross to follow Jesus, allowing Him to Live, it costs us everything, not just 10% of our stinking money. But in that death of us, and Life of His, we find true Joy. We find Generosity. We find Love. We find Stewardship. We find Blessing. We give abundantly and generously and extravagantly. We are not concerned about tax deductions or accolades or credit. We are only consumed with His Glory.
Practically, this looks like abiding in Him and listening for His voice on how to bless people.
What if instead of putting a check in the plate every month and counting that as the completion of our religious duty to God, we instead asked the Lord each month how He wants to partner with us in using His blessings… to bless others, and further reveal His Kingdom into the earth?
What if Jesus invited you to quit tithing, and instead to invest in generosity and blessing with Him?
What if instead of all the news stories of wait staff at restaurants lamenting Sundays because of how stingy the “Christians” and “church people” are, we tip crazy good?
What if we pay people’s rent when they are on hard times, anonymously?
What if we go on mission trips as extended families of God on mission with Jesus – and pay to send others?
What if we put cash in other’s mailbox?
What if we pay other’s electric bills?
What if we buy food and Starbucks for cars behind us in line?
What if we shared what the Lord has given us with Brothers and Sisters and lived from a place of knowing we have all we need for this day?
What if instead of giving 10% to outsource ministry to acting, professional “priests,” we instead exercised our authority as the Priesthood of all believers, as all Ministers unto the Lord, and joined Him in the personal application of the financial aspect of His ministry through us?
What if we simply gave and blessed as the Lord lead us, without regard to obligation, without motivation to “be blessed back,” without fear of “being cursed,” or without considering whether we were getting a tax deduction?
I’m pretty sure Jesus couldn’t give two shakes about your write-offs.
Do you ever feel “strapped” because you’ve already “given” (or “paid”) your tithe, and since it’s a budgeted item like your other expenses, you have little room beyond it? Then, when another opportunity comes up, that you would love to help with, you feel both mentally and financially unable to do it?
That was me too.
Until I was delivered from that bondage.
You wanna talk about joyful and cheerful giving? Blessing someone and seeing them be blessed, but not know where the blessing came from, other than to give thanks to God – now that will in turn bless you back! You can have fun with God’s money in this.
The fun is the Freedom of Living by Him, not by a system of belief and rules – instead seeking and following how you can partner with Him in His Treasure.
To be fair, there are many church fellowships that do amazing things and steward His blessings well, blessing others and revealing Jesus. Praise Him for that!
But have you ever wondered if stewardship from the Lord’s perspective is bigger than the church offering plate and budget?
According to this study by the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, 86 percent of surveyed church budgets were allocated toward personnel, facilities, administration and other expenses. Eighty-Six Percent. 8. 6. That leaves 14 percent for “Program Expenses,” otherwise known as ministry, going into all the world, revealing and expanding the Kingdom, etc.
Man, if this is anywhere close to accurate, we need to blow the whole thing up. All of it. Shut down “church” as we know it. Start over. Forget arguing about tithing. Who are we kidding?
We have lost our way, and our first love.
In closing, let me simply encourage you to sit with Jesus over this. Ask Him about stewardship. Ask Him about generosity. Ask Him about what it looks like for Kingdom people to incarnate His Life in the area of financial resources. Ask Him if what we have been doing lines up with His highest and best.
These are simply my convictions, so don’t follow me. Follow Him.
My spiritual instincts tell me that the more we do indeed follow, the richer and more meaningful our investment, and His return, in this Kingdom will be.
And yes, following Jesus would mean NOT tithing.
It would mean so much more… Everything.
What do you think? How do you see stewardship? Is it tithing to your church for you? Something different?